Author Topic: Needing Education on Black Phantoms  (Read 870 times)

Offline babycalfs

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Needing Education on Black Phantoms
« on: March 25, 2022, 02:45:19 PM »
Hello,

I'm new to vintage bikes and recently posted on Reddit with some questions related to the 50s Black Phantom but I haven't gotten any responses yet. I just now found this community, which looks like a really good place to seek some specialized help from. So first off, hello and thanks in advance to anyone who can help or even takes the time to read this.

My grandfather was an avid collector of vintage bikes-- he had hundreds of them; he was a picker long before TV had shows about them.

He recently passed away at the age of 90 and, through a series of poor and impulsive choices, deciding members of my family have elected to sell his lifetime collection of antique bicycles as quickly as possible in a local auction. While family members are allowed to see them before the public, we are expected to bid and compete with a litany of local and national collectors that have been circling like vultures for decades if we want a piece of our grandfather's legacy.

I was fortunate enough to live next door to him, growing up around him tinkering with old bikes. His collection and the time that he spent restoring them has become a part of his legacy; and while saying goodbye is a natural part of life, in contrast to my family's behavior, I would like to try to salvage a few of his models because they were such an important part of his life.

While he has many rare bikes that honestly belong in a museum, the Schwinn Black Phantom was the one he talked about the most frequently. He restored one of them years back and used to ride it in parades, winning several trophies in small town bike competitions over the years. The thing was beautiful and he couldn't have been more proud of it. That restored model will stay in the family per his wishes but he has several other Phantoms in various condition-- some of which need some serious love and others may be beyond repair.

While rarity of these is important to me, it's not necessarily the actual value that I'm after. I have no intention of reselling or flipping these. I want them out of respect for my grandfather. The condition of the individual bikes will likely play a role in my focus, but I also have a desire to preserve rare models because that was something that he spent a lifetime hunting for. I could also see myself respectfully restoring one of them just because he had a desire to restore more Phantoms and "never got around to it" after he got sick.

The auction is coming up in a few months and I have a desire to try and seriously compete against the public for his Phantoms but it seems online information is scarce on the models and I have a lot of questions and a strong desire to do his memory justice. I'm not a wealthy person so I'm likely not going to be able to afford all of them -- I think he probably has around 10; so I'm going to have to focus my bidding and purchases strategically on models based on condition and rarity because that's what he would have wanted.

So does anyone have any resources or information on the Schwinn Black Phantoms? The only stuff I can find online is very brief and somewhat generic and there seems to be a lot of parts swapping on them. I need an introduction and I'm looking for a perspective that preserves the integrity of the original models. I'm looking for a breakdown of what specifically changes in the models from year to year. What years or models are the most rare and shouldn't be touched or restored? What year is good to focus on for a restoration if I'm able? How do you tell them apart except for looking at the serial number (some of which apparently have repeating or reused serial numbers from what my research has gathered)? What's the difference between the Phantom and the Black Phantom?

I don't have pictures yet but am planning to make a trip down there either this weekend or next if that would help; but right now I'm just looking to educate myself as much as possible before I lay eyes on them for the first time.

Offline rickpaulos

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Re: Needing Education on Black Phantoms
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2022, 05:54:40 PM »
Hi,

Since you will have a chance to see them in advance, take lots of photos.  A full right side shot of each with a plain background in daylight would be good.

There are a few Schwinns that are worth quite a bit but the vast majority of them are worth their value in scrap metal.  People have heard of the $3,000 to $10,000 Schwinns and think their $5 Schwinn is worth that. Many other brands have near zero value.  1960s & 1970s USA made 1, 3, 5 & 10 speeds from AMF, Huffy, Columbia, etc are bikes no one wants. There were many "gas station", hardware and department store brands made by Schwinn or the other USA manufacturers.  The more deluxe models are sought after.

Auctions are a crap shoot.   I went to the Schwinn Auction in Chicago in the 1990s where they sold off the company collection. They went for 3x-4x their value because 1 guy with unlimited funds wanted them all for his own museum.  I went to another auction where I bought 14 bikes for $12 total.  I could have gotten 50 but didn't have transport for them.  Selling them off one by one is very time consuming and would be a full time job for months.  My brother bought out an old guys collection for $100 and spent 3 summer months fixing and flipping.  More advertising for auctions will help with attendance and selling prices.  I still remember going to my first police auction where a Schwinn Varsity missing the rear wheel sold for more than a new one.  Most auction sites have very limited advertising.  Word of mouth can help spread the news via the www.   With covid, most local auctions have gone on line with the expectation the buyer will pick up the items the next day or else and with no chance to see the item in person. That really limits the sale$.  Very few auction houses take the time to do the items well. Copake in New York puts together a great on line catalog for their annual bicycle sale.  Really  no other high end auction house will bother with bikes.  the Schwinn sale in Chicago was a rare exception.  Local estate sales/auctions are poorly advertised and usually only draw locals who aren't shopping for bicycles.  None will ship large items.

Black Phantom was a big deal when new.  And there are reproductions, copies and fakes.  I had a similar era Schwinn built ballooner and I was very happy to sell it. Rode awful. I've had no interest in ballooners since.

Too bad about the family decision. Same sort of decision that lead Schwinn to sell off their collection.  Money first! By the time the auctioneer and the lawyers take their cuts and the money is split up, each will be disappointed.  Is that it?






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Offline babycalfs

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Re: Needing Education on Black Phantoms
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2022, 07:03:45 PM »
Hey Rick, thanks for the reply. Yeah, in short it's a disappointing decision by the family that I couldn't possibly disagree with more.

I've honestly never rode a Phantom. Grandpa always rode his restored Phantom in parades and he only had one back then. I have two bikes of my own but they're Specialized road bikes because I tend to be an endurance rider. I'll have my work cut out trying to pedal one of those heavy Phantoms any sort of distance ;D

The auction is allowing some phone bids and I'm just hoping for minimal competition but we'll see. I'm gonna take photos and I can post those when I get them to see if any of you can help identify any fakes (although it would really surprise me if he bought a fake because I feel like he knew his stuff). I have about 90 minutes from where they're being stored right now so it's not crazy far but I'd like to be at least a little educated when I make that trip down there so I can take the right kind of pictures.

I believe he has a few Red and Green Phantoms in there, too and I really need to figure out the difference between the Red Phantoms and the Phantom (I believe there was a red colored Phantom but it wasn't actually the Red Phantom). I'm mostly interested in the Black Phantoms, though because that's what he gravitated towards but I believe those started as Phantoms before they were Black Phantoms so I'd be ok with those, too.

Offline babycalfs

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Re: Needing Education on Black Phantoms
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2022, 10:45:10 AM »
Hello,
I wanted to check back in and drop a few pics for people because they're more interesting than my wall of text. There's quite a few pictures but I thought I would post a few of the bikes I'm interested in to get feedback and post some very limited observations that I have given that I've only been doing research on this for about a month. I'm just looking for feedback and I take criticism well, so you don't have to be gentle.

Black Phantom

This first one looks like a 1951 Black Phantom. It's a little beat up but I kinda fell for it. Serial is H163706 and is located on the bottom. Also looks like it has a Wald reflector on the back and my limited research was pointing towards the Walds only being on the very early 49s and maybe the 50s. Seat is pretty beat up and I have some access to some Mesinger seats. Would the 51s have a Mesinger seat or were they primarily the brown Schwinn seats?

How do the components looks? Does it look original? Is anything out of place? If I was able to get this one, I probably wouldn't repaint or restore because I want to preserve the integrity but I wouldn't be against switching out some components to make it all original.

Red Phantom

The other one I'm focused on is this Red Phantom. Serial is L89339 which looks like it puts it as either a 1954 or a 1956. The seat is immaculate so I'm pretty sure it's repo. No locking Springer fork. So the one thing that stands out to me is the chain ring looks like the 47T clovers and I think it's supposed to have the 52T like the Black Phantom pic does.  Again, I'm really focused on original parts on these so how's it look?

Thanks in advance for any response. I really appreciate the help with this

Offline buses n bikes

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Re: Needing Education on Black Phantoms
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2022, 09:31:28 AM »
Both are very nice and desirable bicycles. They look about as original as one would expect them to be - very nice.

The Red (and Green) Phantoms were produced in far fewer qtys so that nice Red could/would/should fetch more I'd presume.

Wow, do I see sky blue and lime green early Sting-Rays in the back? One appears to have a springer fork making it a Super Deluxe or J-33, even more valuable bikes yet.

Good luck and be sure that auction is well publicized! Nice BIKES!!
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Offline babycalfs

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Re: Needing Education on Black Phantoms
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2022, 10:55:17 AM »
Heh, yeah... they are. The Phantoms def aren't the highest value ones here. I wish I could save them all but I don't have the room or the money and things are moving so fast, there's no way to shut it down at this point so his collection is going to be scattered. But yeah, he's got a ton of Sting-Rays and Krates laying around, too.

Originally I was just going to focus on the Black Phantoms but that Red really caught my eye. I'm also looking at some Greens now too. I appreciate you mentioning the smaller quantity of those.

Is that Clover chain ring original on the reds?

Offline buses n bikes

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Re: Needing Education on Black Phantoms
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2022, 12:27:09 PM »
That's unfortunate that you won't have much of a chance/option to pull out a few you'd like to keep as a memory of him. Hopefully that changes!

The small cloverleaf sprocket was used on all Phantoms after '57 or '58. The smaller chainring really helped get those big tanks moving off the line quicker, in conjunction with a big rear sprocket.
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Offline babycalfs

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Re: Needing Education on Black Phantoms
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2022, 01:40:09 PM »
oooh, ok. I thought the 52T ring was standard and people were just manually switching it out to the clover to make it easier to pedal

Offline buses n bikes

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Re: Needing Education on Black Phantoms
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2022, 03:44:37 PM »
Nope, later ones that was stock - even if it did look a little out of place. Man, I want that Super Deluxe. I think it’s on the blue bike, too. Long frame Sky Blue Sting Ray Super Deluxe, my dream bike! If you don’t mind me asking, where will the auction be held at?
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2015 Surly Karate Monkey
2006 Bianchi Pista
2001 Surly 1x1
1989 Bianchi Campione d' Italia
1985 Trek 720
1980 Cook Brothers 3-bar

Offline babycalfs

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Re: Needing Education on Black Phantoms
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2022, 10:58:24 AM »
I'll DM ya